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Backyard chickens and pigeons debate returns to Guelph/Eramosa Township

In Guelph/Eramosa, hens and pigeons currently fall under the definition of livestock and are only permitted on agriculturally zoned properties of two acres or greater

GUELPH/ERAMOSA ‒ Always known to ruffle some feathers, staff will compare the advantages and disadvantages of permitting backyard hens and pigeons on residential properties in the municipality during Monday's council session.

According to the report, the advantages of backyard hens include control over food quality, reduced food and packaging waste, and lower food bills while the cons listed include odour, humane treatment, predators, property values, and biosecurity. 

The report also states that the township has received several inquiries related to the keeping of pigeons on smaller lots within the agricultural zone. 

In Guelph/Eramosa, hens and pigeons currently fall under the definition of livestock and are only permitted on agriculturally zoned properties of two acres or greater. 

“Chickens are not currently permitted within residential areas because they lack the appropriate zoning and are generally unable to meet the minimum lot size requirements specific to livestock facilities,” said staff in the report. “The only exception would be where the use meets the conditions of legal non-conformity and/or is recognized through a site-specific zoning bylaw.” 

Three of seven municipalities in the county currently allow backyard hens: Centre Wellington, Minto, and Erin. 

Permitting up to 10 hens per residential lot, Centre Wellington’s animal control bylaw allows double that of Minto and Erin, who can house up to five hens on non-agriculturally zoned properties subject to provisions. 

Wellington North, Puslinch, and Mapleton do not currently permit backyard hens.

In 2022, Wellington North revisited the discussion following a public petition but council nixed the idea when concerns were raised about Avian Flu, the proximity of coops to neighbouring properties, and potential nuisance. 

“When assessing the feasibility of allowing backyard chickens and/or pigeons in residential areas, the size requirement preventing the keeping of livestock on smaller agricultural properties should also be taken into consideration,” said the report. “This would help to avoid expanding permissions in residential areas while continuing to restrict the keeping of chickens and/or pigeons on agricultural properties that would otherwise be conducive to such a use.” 

Centre Wellington and Erin are the only municipalities that allow the keeping of pigeons on non-agricultural properties. Centre Wellington allows a combined total of four pigeons or 10 hens while Erin permits up to 60 pigeons.  

Should the council choose to permit chickens and/or pigeons in residential areas and on smaller agricultural lots, they will need to conduct a public meeting, amend the township’s animal control bylaw, and introduce a new bylaw for future consideration. 

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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